Intel, Toshiba, Samsung aim to halve chip circuitry size

But smaller circuitry means greater data error rates

Three unlikely bedfellows have joined forces to halve the size of the technology used to make NAND flash chips and microprocessors in an effort to vastly increase the density and capacity of solid-state drives (SSDs) and create faster CPUs that use less power.

According to a Reuters report , Intel , Toshiba and Samsung have entered into a joint development agreement to reduce the size of NAND flash memory circuitry from the 20 nanometer (nm) sizes only recently adopted for manufacturing to 10nm. The companies estimate they'll be able to produce 10nm products by 2016.

Intel is the world's largest semiconductor chipmaker. Samsung and Toshiba are the first- and second-largest makers of NAND flash memory. The three plan to form a consortium of 10 companies that make products in the semiconductor or related industries.

Intel and Samsung are already approaching atomic size with their lithography technique. Lithography is the process of creating cells and transistors in silicon that are used to store bits of data. Currently, the companies are producing 20nm-class flash chips storing either one, two or three bits per cell. A nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter. At 25nm, NAND flash circuitry is 3,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair.

While all three companies are likely to use the smaller lithography to make more dense NAND flash chips, Intel will likely use it to develop faster microprocessors, according to the Nikkei Daily.

The Nikkei news agency also said Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry may fund up to half the project's cost, or roughly $61 million of the $122 million project, with the companies paying for the rest.

In July, Toshiba announced the start of construction on a new NAND flash chip fabrication facility -- dubbed Fab 5 -- at its Yokkaichi City, Japan, operation.

NAND flash memory has been the single biggest change to drive technology in recent years, with the storage medium showing up in data centers, high-end laptops like Apple's MacBook Air and in memory cards in mobile devices. Apple has largely driven the adoption rate with its use of NAND flash in its popular iPods and iPhones , sales of which helped drive flash memory costs down through mass production.

iSuppli Corp. forecasts that the global flash memory card market will grow from 530 million units this year to 9.5 billion units by 2013, when it will be worth $26.5 billion. The market for high-capacity memory chips room to grow, according to iSuppli, largely because of the rise of smartphones<. The more features they offer -- whether it's touch screens, wireless Internet access or video capabilities -- the more storage they need.

But for NAND flash to compete more with traditional hard disk drives, production costs must come down. By producing denser NAND flash chips, manufacturers can pack more capacity into the same space, thereby reducing the costs.

However, there are inherent problems with shrinking the size of circuitry used in semi-conductors, most notably an increase data error rates from electrons bleeding through ever-thinner silicon walls. That requires the development of more sophisticated error correction code (ECC).

Traditional ECC, however, requires code redundancy and data read latency as the number of errors that must be corrected goes up.

There are several materials being explored by memory manufacturers to alleviate the problem. One technology several nonvolatile memory companies are exploring is Resistive Random-Access Memory (RRAM). Instead of using silicon as a resistive material, RRAM uses a filament or conduction path in the silicon.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intelstoragestorage hardwarehardware systemstoshibaReuters

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Lucas Mearian

Lucas Mearian

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Brother MFC-L3745CDW Colour Laser Multifunction

Learn more >

Mobile

Exec

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?